Monday, December 13, 2010

Training Wheels

Training is one of those functions often discussed in leadership circles, but seldom fully implemented. This is not being negative because of what is seen in practice (or not seen) or because of poor customer service experience obviously based on lack of training. No, I'm just stating a fact: while well-intended, continued training of employees is one of those tasks that is kept in the back rooms of the mind. It is "something that we'll get around to soon."

Some professionals believe that procrastination is the result of fear. It is the fear of not properly completing a project that causes us to not even begin. In his book, Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy states that if we eat a live frog first thing in the morning, that is the worse thing we will do all day and the rest of the day will be a breeze. The point is that if we tackle that one thing that we've been procrastinating, (translated: FEAR), we will build confidence to improve on that project and to go on and complete several others with ease.

If training were made a priority we would probably choose to complete it first. If we knew the outcome of the efforts of our training, we would put more effort into getting it done. It seems to reason then that we need to know the benefits of training so that we can appreciate the immediate need.

Conducting an analysis of job performance is a great place to begin. Discovering from various resources such as employee reviews, customer feedback forms, vendor feedback, sales tracking, and many more can help to determine where training is needed. In the case of sales, if a salesperson's performance has slipped, it is a good idea to find out why and then fix it. If you discover that the salesperson needs training in managing prospects, and you know that the outcome will be that the training will improve sales for the salesperson and the business, then training becomes a priority: TRAINING TO MANAGE PROSPECTS = $$$. Now you have a reason to train. The only other fear now, or reason for procrastinating is the "how" of training.

How we train is so vital to the outcome of our training that we don't want to mess it up. In the example of the salesperson and managing prospects, the trainer should have some knowledge in sales and business, but a lot of knowledge in managing prospects. The trainer should know how to train various personalities, how to measure effective training outcomes, and how to construct ongoing training materials.

Stay tuned for the next segment of "Training Wheels."

Monday, August 16, 2010

For the Love of People

Working for improving the people side of business is not always that easy. Frankly, people can be... well... people. You know, frustrating, aggravating, whiney, selfish, hard-to-please, and down-right annoying! But, that is, at the same time, the beauty of working with people--- interviewing them, hiring them, and training them--- that makes the work so interesting. Let me explain. If the people that you hired are all the same, made from the same mold, say the same things, dress the same, etc., then you don't have not put together a winning team.

Don't get me wrong. You don't have to have people that disagree with you or that rub you the wrong way and don't fit your company's culture. But you should look for those folks who will add "spark" to your business. Those people who may not look the part, but who offer creative insights into areas of the business that you or others on your team have not seen before. You may have to overlook some aspects of their personalities in order to allow much stronger points to flourish.

Think about it. You may need to rethink your hiring process and the criteria for the people that you are looking to bring on board.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pursuing Engagement

How difficult it is to get someone fired up about a feeling you experienced. What I mean is that if I saw a great movie or hit a terrific golf shot, or felt totally relaxed on the beach, I can't really explain that so clearly that someone else can feel the same excitement, same warmth of the sun, same exhilaration of a good shot. I know there are people that can. You can experience that while reading a book by a good author or hearing a story from a great communicator. I just know that I have a hard time doing it.

What about trying to get your employees engaged in their work? How difficult is that? Some business leaders are naturals at it. Some just give up and experience high turnover as they fire unengaged employees and hope that the next one they hire will be totally fired up about their job.

Getting employees motivated and engaged in their work requires good communication skills (doesn't have to be great), a passion for the business, and a little creativity. The communication skills is for getting the message across to your team what is expected of them and how their jobs contribute to the overall mission of the business. Without sharing this information, employees simply go through the process of their job descriptions without true umph (a rarely used HR term).

A good business leader must have a passion for their business. As a leader, you naturally have people to lead or followers. Are they following a grumpy, stick-in-the-mud or a leader who is passionately on fire about the direction of the organization and the steps needed to get there? Your passion is seen, felt, and passed on to your team members. They feed off of it. It is now a natural process for them to get engaged in their own jobs.

Good business leaders are creative. They think of ways to make even the most mundane job fun to perform knowing how critical it is to the overall process. Creative thinking leaders are always looking for ways to spice up the work either through contests, company parties, job rotation, etc. Creativity keeps the business young in spirit while growing wiser daily. Being creative engages those around you and inspires others to creatively think of solutions in their job performances.

Pursue engagement today!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How To Stay Out of Trouble in 5 Easy Steps

Managing a business is one thing, managing people is another. Wait a minute. Aren't they one in the same? Well, yes, if you have employees. There are some entrepreneurs who have made a good living without hiring help, but that is for another discussion

For those of you who have employees, bookmark these 5 steps for staying out of trouble when it comes to the many, (some unnecessary!) labor laws:

1.) Use all available resources for communication. While there still exists some controversy over the use of communication tools such as employee handbooks, policy manuals, and job descriptions, it has been my experience that you are better off having these in place and updating them on a regular basis. These tools help you first to communicate your passion, your mission, and your ideas of where the business is heading. The tools help you to clearly explain the course of the business and the business values while explaining the culture of your business. They also communicate to the team what is expected and what is not expected as far as conduct, dress code, using the internet, etc. Use these tools to stay out of trouble.

2.) Be responsible. I've seen it over and over again. Employers get in trouble when they have the attitude that people are tools to be disposed of when they are no longer needed or if they get broken. My comment is always to "Man-up!" or woman-up if that fits. In other words, take responsibility for the person you hired. In most cases, you spent a lot of money to hire that person and letting them go without trying to salvage them is just plain bad business. From the moralistic point of view, you as another human being, in a Western culture need to show compassion for another. If the employee continues to mess up, and you've tried all that you can do, then by all means fire their fanny, but only after you've tried all that you could try to help them, nurture them, train them, feed them, whatever it takes to keep them. The bonus to this is that no court will won't to punish you for terminating someone after you've exhausted all efforts.

3.) Document everything. A good example from step #2 is that if you've tried to keep the employee and worked with that person from every possible angle, please document your efforts. Even jotting down dates and times on a Post-It Note becomes a legal document. Write down every occasion that the employee was late, did not perform well, smoked dope, whatever it was, jot it down. Your memory is not that good. Document, document, document.

4.) Don't go it alone. If you have to have a closed door meeting with an employee over a discipline situation, bring another person in with you. This helps to keep the story straight when you document the incident afterward. It also helps to avoid any accusations by the employee later on. I once terminated a female employee who began crying and stated that her husband was going to kill her. My heart went out to her. I closed the door and approached her to put my hand on her shoulder (this was really early in my career). I came to my senses, realized my mistake and immediately called in another female to assist me with the meeting. Bring someone in with you.

5.) Stay informed. There are so many new laws affecting the way employers are treated that it is difficult to stay on top of everything. Notice that I said affecting employers and not employees. That is because the laws seem to favor employees with a huge burden on the employer. You need to know about these. While your job is to do whatever your business creates, produces, and provides, you still need to keep abreast of laws that affect the outcome of how you handle employee situations. There are great resources available online or you can simply sign up for my monthly e-newsletter at

Monday, April 12, 2010

Seeing Green

It's not easy being green, although it is popular. In fact, consumers look for the green label on everything from toilet paper to power cords to ice cream (seriously! saw it on a ice cream carton myself!) But what does it cost to go green and who sets the standard for green? Well, it all depends on your industry, who talk to, and what the general public opinion is regarding green.

There are really good reasons for going green today, but most of the businesses I follow are going green, or stating that they are going green, in order to increase the bottom line of their business. In other words, they want our business based on the shade of green of their business.

Before getting all greenish to help the sales of your business, perhaps we should all step back and look at what really brings in the biz. Customers want good customer service. Notice that I wrote "good" and not "great" customer service. Most customers are willing to settle for average service because they see so much poor service today. I hear from customers of some of our clients who state that the good customer service they receive is almost a shock. They are stunned that a salesperson actually made eye contact with them and seemed to care about the needs of the customer. Their face didn't look like they fell into a tackle box (way too many piercings), and they could speak the Queen's English without nonsensical slang. They seemed to understand that their pay is based, in part, on providing a good customer service experience.

Do you want to go green? First, make your competitors grow green with envy when they see that your business is stealing customers because of the great service that you provide.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What Am I Doing Here?

Have you ever had one of those times when you walk into a room in your house or office and then ask yourself, "What I am doing here?" For some unknown reason you cannot remember why you went there. Some folks call it a senior moment. My theory is that we have way too much information swimming around in our brains that we let the small things escape us.

While observing a group of employees for a client, I overheard one of them ask to no one in particular, "What I am doing here?" Interesting question.
What if it were one of your employees? I imagine you might be upset. Fire them? Yell at them? Throw them in the stockade?

There are many ways to handle this situation, but probably only a few good legal ones.

First, your employees need to know why they are there and what their job roles are. If they don't, it is usually not your team members who are at fault. It is either you or the leadership that you put in place. Communication is lacking at some point. Either when you hired the person, your expectations were not communicated. Perhaps there was a glitch in your orientation program. Maybe your employee handbook is not communicating what is expected of them. How about your job descriptions? Are they up to date and have they been read by your employees?

You should be able to go to any employee and ask them what their role is in the organization and they have a good answer that just rolls off their tongue. The should know how their job fits in the overall success of the business as well as the definition of success for the business.

If you have an employee that is overheard asking, "What am I doing here?" let it be because they are experiencing a senior moment and not because they don't have a clue about why they are there.

Wishing you a profitable Spring!

HR Guy

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


We often underestimate the power of that which goes beyond motivation. Beyond what one could possibly instill into one's team (and one's own psyche), it goes beyond mind-games and above what might translate into a handsome quarter end bonus.

It is what literally makes us get up every single morning and what we dream of doing, if it is something other than the roles we perform every day.

Sometimes it might not even fully or directly relate to our jobs. For me these days it is the taste of a long (and long-awaited) trip to a different continent.

But why should anyone invest any time thinking about this?

Even for the luckiest of us, the ones who get to pursue their passion every single day, sometimes the light goes into pilot, and the roaring, crackling fire that once propelled us dims every so slightly. That's when it is important to remind ourselves that work-related stuff is never the only dangling-carrot at the end of the race and let our copilot (our other dreams and aspirations) take control of the wheel and let those motivations re-ignite our bonfire.

That's why it is so important to get to know your team-members. Know who's working to pay for their parent's dream vacation, know who is working to adopt a child, know who is working to buy a boat or to get a get the idea.

Getting to know your people is not always as easy as it sounds. It has to be done sincerely, tactfully & graciously. One has to invest time for conversation to flow, for barriers to break down, for trust to build. But in the end, it is one of the simplest and most important conversations you can ever have with anybody in your team.

When someone is down because they could not close a deal, or things simply did not go as expected, softly remind them "Hey, think about that boat, think how worth it it all will be in the end. Think about lazy fishing Sundays!"

This, of course, is no exact science, but adding a human touch to the quotidian surely it has never hurt relationships...or business.
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